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GRASSROOTS ELECTION LIB-LAB RIVALRY

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The rivalry between Labour and Liberal Democrats in Oldham and other Lancashire councils is in stark contrast to Pa...
The rivalry between Labour and Liberal Democrats in Oldham and other Lancashire councils is in stark contrast to Paddy Ashdown's philosohpy of constructive opposition, reports The Guardian (p8).

According to the paper, Mr Ashdown's ideas are often held in contempt by the grass roots Liberal Democrat members. 'We are fighting street by street, corner by corner, toe to toe, slugging it out,' says Howard Sykes, chief executive of the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors, which is co-ordinating the local election campaign.

There is a possibility the Liberals could take control of Oldham with just six gains, but the local party is playing down its prospects of outright victory and talk instead of consolidation.

Richard Knowles, leader of the council's Lib Dem group, says Labour is extremely unpopular. 'They've been in power too long and bear an uncanny resemblance to the Tories during their last years in power - arrogant and complacent. Tony Blair has a totally different image in contrast to this lot - a highly centralised, big boss party.'

On the national party's policy he says: 'We have a slightly different perspective to Paddy. It's hard to find areas of common purpose here. Old Labour is terribly out of date.'

John Battye, Labour leader of the council, says: 'I can listen to Ashdown and empathise with what he's saying but this lot are in a different league. They're like a cushion - take the shape of the last person that sat on it.'

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